In January, I decided that in honor of Valentine's day, I wanted to offer a free photoshoot to a couple for having the "Best Love Story". Now, I personally LOVE to celebrate love and relationships so of course this is a bit tongue in cheek - the best love stories are the one you experience, and love is such a beautiful thing that it does not compete. So, forgive me for the competition element, but it was really fun to hear the various stories of how folks met and fell in love.
The winning couple was chosen because their story was the most notable and unique. On top of that, Karla was someone that I too had "met" thanks to social media. She and I have been friends on Instagram for years now. I've "known" Karla this way for years - but humorously enough, she and I connected long before we knew we would both live in the same state one day and in the same metro area. It was such a joy and exciting surprise to have them win the contest and get to meet them, myself, with the added layer of all three of us having been connected thanks to social media. It was also fun to find out that they had never hired someone to take their photos before, so it was an entirely new experience for them and what a joy to be the first one to take their photos professionally!
I announced that they had won the contest on Valentine's day, and we met up on April Fools day for our session at SLOSS furnaces. We had a lot of fun exploring all together with both their kids and mine, climbing on things and pointing things out (though sadly, Karla's favorite etching of a heart in one of the windows is no longer there!), sharing stories and memories, and even having views of the city of Birmingham from amidst the metals. Randy and Karla were both so sweet to my girls and we all had a lot of fun together. Karla let the kids pick out what they wanted to wear, and they each had such a distinct personal style. They are a vibrant family who embrace different personalities in their children and one another, and love to encourage creative endeavors and pursuing passions. What a great morning we had! I'm thrilled to share their story and these images of Karla, Randy and their children with you.
SO... Without further ado, the Winners of the Best Love Story of 2015!
Karla + Randy Archer
The short version?
Karla (mom to four kids) and Randy (a bachelor with no kids) met on Twitter, fell in love, and Karla brought her children to Alabama where they became a family of six and their love story continues!
For the longer, far more fun, humorous, and delightful version,
enjoy the interview and images below.
An Interview with Karla + Randy
Hawley: How did you first connect?
Karla: We connected on Twitter in October 2009. We are both University of Alabama football fans (Randy is an alumni, and I was born in Alabama and grew up in a U of A loving home), and during the TN vs. UA game in '09, I tweeted about the game, referencing my Mamaw's love of the Vols, and "sorry mamaw, but the Vols are going down". Though she was originally from Tennessee, she had lived in Alabama for many decades, and never ever ever could stand Bama. Because I used a game hashtag in it, Randy was able to see it as he followed that feed during the game. He thought it was funny and retweeted it, and then followed me - all because of that Tweet :) (thanks, Mamaw! :)
Even though we started following each other on Twitter in October, we didn't reconnect until a month later. I was going through a really rough time in my job search, and was so discouraged. I had gotten news of after yet another long job interview process, where I didn't get the job in the end. I tweeted something out about being discouraged, heading to bed, and sleeping off my frustration. He private messaged me, saying simply "Dream". I was intrigued by this, and moved that he felt moved to say something encouraging to me.
The evening of January 21st, 2010 was when we finally really connected and he asked if he could call me. After nearly an hour of making him prove he really wasn't some kid in his mom's basement, or some creepy guy, I called him and we talked straight through the night, until it was time for me to get ready for work the next morning.
Randy: The only reason I asked it I could call Karla was because she could type so much FASTER than I could. She was so damn smart and funny that I couldn’t keep up. We were DM’ing and she was wearing my typing skills thin. I had no idea who she was or what her situation was. In fact, I was looking for business connections really. Nothing more. We talked for 8 hours straight that first phone call.
Karla: That’s true -- he made it clear early on that he was a bachelor. In fact, he suggested I go back to my ex-husband within the first 10 mins of our phone call. (within the next hour, he had changed his mind)
Hawley: What most drew you together?
Karla: We were both in the process of starting over when we met and each of us was determined to do things differently: differently from the past, and differently from what the world told us we had to do to be happy and successful. It's hard to find others who genuinely want that. Most people say they want to do things differently, but rarely do. Randy and I did... Plus, he's amazingly brilliant and creative! :)
Randy, laughing: "OMG I had not laughed that hard in a VERY long time. She was so smart , witty and funny. My stomach muscles would literally ache from us being silly via Twitter, text or phone. It was something that I had missed for a very long time in my life. Being able to laugh … really laugh together is very important in a relationship in my opinion.
Hawley: What was it like when you first met?
Karla: So so so surreal!! He picked me up at the airport and we just stood in the terminal holding each other for the longest time. It took us forever to get to the car because we kept having to stop and hug and giggle. We had stupid-giddy smiles plastered to our faces the entire time. It was the most comfortable, natural feeling ever.
I was home.
Randy: For me, and of course the TSA agent who threatened to arrest me right before for trying to videotape our meeting, there was a lot of relief to see her in real life. I tried to film the whole meeting but was so nervous I botched the whole thing. Once we embraced … for a very long time in the airport … I was so nervous just to get her home. It didn’t seem real and I didn’t want to have an accident or anything on the way home. I wanted to just sit in the airport parking deck and just stare into her eyes but they do charge crazy money for hourly Short Term Parking you know.
Hawley: When did you "know" you were in love?
Karla: This is where people REALLY roll their eyes (as if they weren't already lol)... From the first night we talked on the phone, we talked daily. We texted throughout our days. We sent photos to each other every day, of things we saw, places we were etc. Within days, we were at a point of going "this is either going to work or it's stupid and a waste of time and it needs to stop" (Karla laughs)
So it didn't take us long to express the feelings we were each beginning to feel. We were both very honest about things from the very beginning. I've never felt more open and safe in expressing myself with anyone, and so we talked about concerns (how would the kids react, what would we do if they had issues with Randy, where would we live, who would move, how would we make money, where would I work...)
It just grew and grew, and one day we both were like "OH MY GOSH - I LOVE YOU!".
By the time we met face-to-face, we were committed to each other, knew we were in love, and had already been trying to figure out plans for being together.
Randy: I guess the moment I knew I was certainly falling “in love” was the next afternoon after our initial 8 hour phone call. Karla had reached out to me before getting off work and going to pick up the kids. I remember her kidding me that she was so tired from us chatting all night and kidding me about it being my fault. That struck a chord with me and I DID suddenly feel concern for her and the kids getting home safely that evening. I sheepishly asked this very smart, strong and capable woman to please let me know when she and the #4Kidz (this is our family thing, we call our kids the "#4kidz") got home safe that afternoon. She agreed to let me know and did. My concern for Karla and the #4Kidz has never left my thoughts since.
Hawley: How did the kids react initially, and Randy to the kids?
Karla: The first night Randy and I talked, he asked me about the children. Their birthdays, their names, their interests, etc. I had sworn early on that the children would never meet anyone I was dating until/unless it had progressed to an engagement. My children were little and I had no intention of messing with their emotions. So, I told them about Randy only after we had committed to being together and making a life together. They were excited and wanted to talk with him on the phone and meet him. He would also text them photos of notes he wrote to them, and send photos of things that he thought they would like/enjoy, and I'd send photos of them to him. They all talked very naturally from the beginning. It took some time to coordinate a trip to Maryland for him, when the kids were also with me.
I wish I had a video of the first time the kids met Randy. The two oldest (7 and 9) rode the school bus home, so they got to have some time alone with him to talk his ear off. I had to pick up the two littles (they were 2 and 4), and we all met at a grocery store where we were picking up snacks for a trip to the park. The two youngest were beside themselves when they heard they were going to meet Randy in-real-life, and they literally ran across the store squealing, and into his arms.
And it stayed like that. There was never any angst or issues about him being in our lives... We just all fit together nicely.
Randy: The initial meeting was extraordinary in how ordinary it was. We all 6 first came together in a grocery store. The two littles (2 & 4 years old) came running to me down the deli aisle grinning ear to ear. As they gained speed, I had to quickly drop the grocery basket I had filled with picnic goodies to sweep one of them up into each of my arms as we gazed into each others faces with stupid big grins. We then started shopping and I assumed my parental role with all #4Kidz by hissing “No. We’re not buying that today.” … “Put that down” … “Ya’ll stop fighting” … It felt natural then and it still does. Amazing stuff.
Karla: The kids were fighting over being next to Randy!
Hawley: What was it like to move for love?
Karla: It's funny, because my Mamaw passed away in December 2009. I remember very clearly standing in my parent's bedroom doorway, talking with them and it occurring to me that I would never have a reason to be back in Alabama again. It was such a deeply sad feeling, one, because I so missed my Mamaw, but also because so many wonderful memories are associated with being with family in Alabama over the years.
As I noted above, we had to think through who would move. But Maryland is soooooo expensive, and I was struggling to find a job in the worst job market in ages, after 9 years as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom, he had a home here already, that he would have had to sell, during the worst real estate market in ages, so moving here ended up being so natural and such a simple decision. It never felt like I was moving some place I didn't want to be.
The kids were so stinkin' excited about moving here. We still joke about how they were up and in the moving truck waiting before we were ready to head out.
Randy: We discussed and I was certainly willing to move to Maryland if that was what we needed to do. I just knew that we all needed to be together as a Family ASAP for the sanity of us all. Because of Karla’s Alabama family roots and love of Alabama football the #4Kidz were VERY excited and anxious to live here. For them Alabama was something they had heard about all their young lives. Hell, they even had T-shirts and could say “Roll Tide!” already! So moving here didn’t seem strange or foreign … more like coming home. I know Karla felt that way. I’ve never been so proud to call Alabama home as when I was able to move my Family here.
Hawley: What is your love like now?
What do you love most about One Another?
Karla: It's even deeper; he still takes my breath away when he tells me he loves me. I know people thought it was too quick, dumb and frivolous, but we literally put so much time into talking about our future, any issues, obstacles etc at the onset - much more than most people do - to see if it could work, that we knew we were starting our marriage on good footing.
And his love isn't just for me - he is so amazing to and with the kids, and loves them so naturally. He does so much for our family and loves us all so amazingly well, in such a beautiful way. It still blows my mind.
Randy: Our Love is special because it is ours. The things that we cherish, thrive and appreciate about each other are unique to us. Thankfully, Karla and I were both able to recognize and embrace our unique definitions of Love when our paths crossed. It was life giving for me. And I dare say for Karla and the #4Kidz too. I do not want to imagine my life if I had not been open to connecting with another person on Twitter that day in January, 2010 . Best decision I EVER made … besides getting a truck! ;)
Karla: “I got a truck” is a family inside joke - it encompasses so much: not just the literal moving truck but how smart he thinks I am, how smart he thinks the kids are, how much we couldn’t wait to be together, needed each other... That one moving truck symbolized so much for us as we became a family, together.